The written word is one of the most powerful ways to deliver a message about personal pain or the state of a nation. Poets are among the best at doing so, as they are able to raise all kinds of emotions in the most succinct, beautiful way possible. Poetry is a universal language that everyone understands, but which only a special few can properly deliver. Puerto Rico has had more than its fair share of poets over the years, but the contemporary writers will probably point to Jose de Diego as the man who brought in the new era of poetry. His pieces often focused on personal identity and national independence, both of which are still themes that today’s poets touch upon quite heavily.
One of the most influential voices in Puerto Rican literature is Giannina Braschi, who became the first writer to deliver a novel in Spanglish (Yo-Yo Boing). While she may be best known for that particular work, she is also an acclaimed poet. Her best known work in poetry circles would have to be her post-modern “Empire of Dreams” trilogy. Much of her work touches on the stories of Hispanics in the US, but she also spends a lot of time writing about the trio of political options (Nation, Colony, and Statehood) in Puerto Rico.
Janette Becerra is a writer who dabbles in a number of different styles, although it is her poetry that has garnered her the most acclaim. If her name does not seem that familiar, it may be because she writes poetry under the name of S. Tornasol. She has received numerous awards for her work, which runs the gamut from poetry to short stories and children’s books. Becerra currently works as a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, a position she has held for 15 years.
Many of the modern poets from Puerto Rico touch on subjects of sexuality, with many talking about the LGBT community. One of the strongest voices in that category comes from Mayra Santos-Febres. She first gained notoriety with a pair of poem collections that was published in 1991. Santos-Feberes continues to write poetry, but has also expanded to short stories and long form writing. Hers is a voice that many of the newer poets in Puerto Rico try to emulate.
Many writers have made the move from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States, and the stories they have to tell about the experience have created tomes of powerful words. Luz Maria Umpierre-Herrerra now lives in Florida, and many of her works are devoted to her new life. She was the first openly gay female to receive writing awards in Puerto Rico, which helped break down barriers for the next wave of poets.
While many of today’s writer and poets now reside in the United States, their words and world view are still sculpted from a Puerto Rican stance. The themes of their work may have changed over the years, but the passion these Puerto Rican poets have for their nation and independence is something that remains strong.